Page 16

in possession of a supply of ricin and castor beans and a collection of neoNazi books on making poisons. Overseas, German police confiscated a coded diskette containing directions for making mustard gas early in 1996, and political extremists in Tajikistan killed seven people and sickened a number of others with cyanide in 1995 (Oehler, 1996). The Aum Shinrikyo is reported to have experimented with anthrax and botulinum toxin before using the nerve gas sarin (GB) in the subway attack and may even have attempted to obtain a quantity of Ebola virus during the outbreak in Zaire (Fainberg, 1997; Broad, 1998).

The rapid breakup of the Soviet Union was accompanied by well publicized concern about the security of its nuclear arsenal. Other "weapons of mass destruction," namely, chemical and biological agents, drew less attention, but the extent of the Soviet chemical arsenal and the large Soviet biological weapons program are cause for concern about sales to or theft by terrorist groups and rogue states. Also disturbing is the fact that some chemical and biological agents and devices to deliver them efficiently can be inexpensively produced in simple laboratories or even legally purchased. Small quantities can cause massive numbers of casualties, covertly if the perpetrator so desires. The Tokyo attack, which may have been initiated prematurely because of justified suspicion that Japanese police were about to launch a preemptive strike, employed a very crude delivery system; otherwise, the number of deaths might have been far higher.

Legislative Background

The United States government, while continuing to pursue the goal of effective international prohibition of chemical and biological weapons through the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, and activities such as those of the Australian Group, has also recognized the need to address possible use of these agents by individuals or groups unlikely to be deterred by threats of economic sanctions or massive retaliation. In the past decade, Congress has passed three major laws aimed at preventing the acquisition and use of chemical or biological weapons by states, groups, or individuals. The Biological Weapons Act of 1989 makes it a federal crime knowingly to develop, manufacture, transfer, or possess any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system for use as a weapon. It calls for heavy criminal penalties on violators and allows the government to seize any such material for which no legitimate justification is apparent (P.L. 101-298). The Chemical and Biological Weapons Control Act of 1991 (CBWCA) established a system of economic and export controls designed to prevent export of goods or technologies used in

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement